Taking advantage of nature
Last night, I watched our cat jump up to sit next to my wife as she was attempting to send a text. It’s hard to overestimate the challenge of typing on the screen of a smart phone with a cat rubbing its face against the side of the phone as it happily purrs at you.
If you want a cat to come to you, try to send a text, or type an article on a computer keyboard. Picking up a book and sitting down to read also has a powerful magnetic effect on cats. If you call them, their nature is to sit in place as they ponder whether it might be worth working up the energy to come. Usually, they decide it is not.
“Next time the cat gets out, we should take a laptop outside and start typing,” I said as the cat continued to buffet my wife’s phone. “Then again, we might get every cat in the neighborhood coming to sit on the keyboard.”
Calling the cat home with a laptop will remain an untested theory. The image of dozens of cats running toward the sound of my clicking keyboard has the appeal of being stuck in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
There is a similar instinct at work in children. If you want to know where they are, it may or may not be productive to call to them. Their response depends on how engrossed they are with their current activity. If you want to know where your children are, pick up the phone and start dialing. Dialing the phone has the effect on children that a super high-pitched whistle has on dogs. The child might be sitting in the corner of his or her closet, reading a book and listening to music through earbuds, but the sound of a parent making a phone call can penetrate any barrier to remind them of something urgent they must tell you at that very second.
If, on the other hand, you want a few minutes alone to make that phone call, there is a simple way to get time to yourself. If you walk through the front door and announce that you need help unloading groceries from the car, you will set up an almost impenetrable barrier. For the next half hour, you will not exist in your children’s world. If you need to carry on an adult conversation, use a similar technique – call out, “How is everyone doing with their homework?” This question will buy you enough time for a private conversation.
If you actually need help unloading the groceries, pick up the phone and start dialing. Before they realize what hit them, your children will come to you like a cat that has just heard you typing at the computer. Then, you have them where you want them.
There are times when we have to work to overcome the nature of things. Most of the time, however, life is easier if you take advantage of how things actually work.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.